Last week, Seattle Bike Blog’s Stolen Bike Listings page went down. It showed no bike listings in the Seattle area, and unfortunately, this was clearly an error.
So Bryan Hance of BikeIndex, who runs the software and database that powers our listings, looked into the problem and discovered a depressing bug: So many stolen bikes have been submitted since we launched the page that the program was timing out every time it tried to load them all.
The problem is fixed and the listings are back. But 72 bikes have been listed using our new page since we launched it in November. Many more Seattle-area bikes have been listed directly to BikeIndex in that time. And certainly, many stolen bikes are never registered online.
When a bike is stolen, it’s very likely to end up for sale online. Craigslist is the clear leader in stolen bike listings. In fact, stolen good sales through Craigslist is so common that Seattle Police now offer precinct lobbies as safe places to exchange goods.
There are many legitimate people selling bikes on Craigslist, but identifying people selling stolen bikes is a bit of an art. That’s why BikeIndex has put together a handy guide to help you avoid dealing with stolen goods and to help track repeat offenders (since Craigslist won’t).
None of the rules in the graphic below mean absolutely that you’re dealing with a thief (especially the tip about
bad poor grammar), but they should raise flags. If you find a clearly suspicious seller, email firstname.lastname@example.org so they can help crowdsource a watch list. And remember, you can always turn and walk away from a deal if it does not seem right.
And Hance knows what he’s talking about. He ran StolenBicycleRegistry.com for years before teaming up with BikeIndex. He’s also on the Portland Police Bureau’s new Bicycle Theft Task Force, which could come up with some useful ideas Seattle Police can steal to fight theft here (pun unavoidable).
Another way to avoid these headaches is to buy from your local used bike shop. Obviously, shops charge a bit more than Craigslist sellers (they have rent and mechanics to pay!), but bikes have been vetted by professionals. Bikes usually come with a warranty and sometimes include some maintenance support. Shops are also stocked with various accessories (baskets, racks, etc), and they will often install them for free if you’re buying a bike from them. Over time, the extra bucks are probably worth it.